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Saw a superb bio on Dr. Percy Julian on Canadian PBS

by Ziks511 / February 20, 2013 12:53 PM PST

or rather its equivalent, called Forgotten Genius. I'm sure it was an American documentary first..

Born in 1899, Dr. Julian was the first African American PhD in Chemistry in the US, invented the refining process for Physostigmine (the drug of choice for glaucoma) as a Doctoral Candidate at DePauw University. Denied an academic position anywhere in the US, or any research position at any company, he eventually was able to work for Glidden Paints Research division exploring plant steroids from the Soy Bean plant before WW2 and created artificial progesterone which aided women in carrying their babies to term in 1936. He created the flame retardant foam used on Aircraft Carriers during WW2 (also a soy product). He then created the bulk precursor to the hormone cortisone which enabled the mass synthesis of that extremely valuable drug..

When Glidden decided to junk its research chemistry division, despite his having created the process for Latex paint synthesis for them. He created Julian Labs to continue supplying the drug companies with Compound S, which could be turned into Cortisone by simple fermentation. When given the opportunity to make a killing in business by the discovery of new plant products, he simply lowered the price of his products to roughly 1/10th of their previous price knowing that people depended on the pharmaceuticals which he created or provided the raw materials for.

Given the amount of commentary here which verges on the use of words like "no-good, lazy, shiftless, shuffling or strutting" and other stereotypical speeech, but never quite comes out and uses those words, it might be a salutary bit of reading on Wikipedia or dredging the bio or the video out of the local library for some people.

Rob

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